black crown initiate






Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape

(Century Media Records)

     You know those occasions when you're in your castle and all of a sudden, something crashes through the wall? Whatever it is, it's fast, destructive, and it has your undivided attention. You know what I mean. That's the way the first song on the first Black Crown Initiate EP (2013) hit me. I suspect it was that feeling that made the buzz on this band start in the death metal community. Next came their first full length LP, The Wreckage Of The Stars which paid off the EP nicely with more hammers to your head peppered with some clean, melodic passages to let you catch your breath. This was fine progressive Death Metal with dark themes and musical carnage at the core.

     However, we're not here to talk about the first two slices of wrecking ball in the band's catalog. Nor are we here to talk about the second full record, Selves We Cannot Forgive, which clearly had appeal. The fan base grew and the band received the nod from Century Media to sign with the label and join its impressive roster of metal godliness. On Selves..., the progressive elements started to balance out more with the death elements and the net effect was twofold. The skull-splitting factor went down just a tiny notch and the growth factor went up. There was literally even some Jazzy stuff on this record. It was progression in a good direction but the castle walls felt like they were still in danger.

     Of course, we're not here to talk about that record either. We are here to dissect Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape, just released on Century Media (August 7, 2020). The current band includes original members James Dorton (vocals), Andy Thomas (Guitar and Clean Vocals), Nick Shaw (Bass), and newest member Ethan McKenna (Guitar) who is the guitarist the band originally wanted in their lineup at the start. I'll tell you right now it's a good record, but I am not as worried about the castle. I find it ironic that the title of the record suggests violence and yet, the music inside does not reach the violence level of their previous efforts. It certainly has savage moments, but this new set of songs allow you to take off your helmet more often too.

     The album features many admirable efforts to grow musically. “Trauma Bonds” and “Years In Frigid Light” were favorite tracks for me. There's a continued march towards balance between the harsh and the melodic that started with “Selves” and we're even further towards the middle of the see saw with the tracks here. My guess is that hardcore fans on board since the EP may be growing a little uneasy with the direction. The meaty, fist to your face elements of the band are there but they are being swallowed by the progressive dragon. On the other hand, that's probably okay for more current fans who jumped on board with the last record and are hoping for more of the same, which part of their fan base dominates their following will probably be revealed by the reaction to this record.

     Involvement of a major label is clearly at play here. We've all seen raw talent emerge from the underground and be spit shined by the giant that is corporate America more times than we can count. It think it is notable that the band included an entire track, “Bellow” which is just unaccompanied death growls. It doesn't have a lot of replay value but it's kind of funny. Maybe they put it in to make sure balance is maintained because there is more clean singing on this record than on any of their previous albums. It's almost as if they realized that and said, “Let's just add a full track of acapella grunting to level the playing field.”

     As I read back what I wrote, it sounds more negative than positive. That is not really my intent. This is a good record. There are musical high points featured throughout. But BCI is just continuing to move in new directions, grow, and do what they want to do. Nothing wrong with that but not everyone is going to like it. Frankly, if they are true to their vision, the band probably does not care.

     The opening track, “Invitation” actually does a superb job of foreshadowing what lies ahead. It is an invitation to how BCI sounds on this record. It starts with a melodic guitar intro and airy, clean singing. When the brutality comes, we get surging guitar, ferocious blast beats, and harsh vocals. It's a solid opening song that winds through all kinds of musical tundra. At the same time, you can just feel the whole affair is going to be BCI on 8 or 9 rather than 10. There were even a couple of spots (throughout the album honestly) that reminded me of Incubus, which is pretty far from death metal.

     On the back half of the record, I think the melodic progressive elements become even more prominent. “Death Comes In Reverse,” “Son Of War,” and “Holy Silence” all felt this way to me. The latter is a standout of these three tracks, featuring some eclectic music and charged playing.

     Violent Portraits of a Doomed Escape is a nice record and clearly, the band is inspired and focused on evolving. It's just missing a little something; namely that dark, heaviness from previous efforts. It's still heavy but not as heavy. Violent may not belong in the title. The whole album is slick, for lack of a better term. For me, that's not ideal. I don't love it, but I can live with it because there is an enticing amount of cool music to enjoy here.

Select Discography

Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape (2020)

Selves We Cannot Forgive (2016)

The Wreckage Of Stars (2013)

Song Of The Crippled Bull (EP) (2014)

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